David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Contracts, Couples, Courage, Crime

Contracts

• Red Auerbach started coaching the Boston Celtics in 1950 and almost immediately made a terrible mistake—he didn’t want to draft Holy Cross guard Bob Cousy, whom he called “a “local yokel.” Fortunately for the Celtics, Mr. Auerbach got him and signed him to a contract anyway. The Chicago Stags owned the rights to Mr. Cousy, and when they folded, Celtics owner Walter Brown pulled Mr. Cousy’s name out of a hat and won the rights to him. Mr. Cousy’s passing ability made the Celtics a respectable team and, after center and defensive genius Bill Russell joined the team, he played a very important role in winning their early championships.

Couples

• When basketball player Chris Mullen was drafted by a California team, the Golden State Warriors, he had to move far from his home and girlfriend in New York. Fortunately, he was making a lot of money as a professional basketball player, so he and his girlfriend could afford to talk on the telephone for hours. Both of them liked sports, so sometimes they both tuned into the same game on ESPN—she in New York, and he in California—and talked on the telephone as they watched the game together. Eventually, Mr. Mullen and his girlfriend, Liz Connolly, got married.

• Babe Didrikson remained single for a long time. One day, a reporter noticed a diamond ring on her finger and asked her about it. She replied, “Bought it myself. It was a diamond I wanted, not a man.” Later, she married George Zaharias, who was twice as big as she was, and got bigger—he ate sticks of butter the way other people eat bananas. The marriage was mostly happy, although when they quarreled she was not above buying a tiny convertible that her sometimes-400-pound husband could not fit into.

Courage

• As an elite figure skater who competed internationally as an amateur, even winning a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Sarah Hughes had to show strength and determination; however, some things are impossible to do the first time. For example, she thought about getting her hair cut before the 1999 World Championships. She even walked into the hair salon and listened to the snip-snip-snip of scissors—then got cold feet and walked out without getting her hair cut. But for the 2000 World Championships, she decided to go through with it. All the time that the stylist was preparing to go snip-snip-snip, Sarah was thinking, “If I don’t like it, it will grow back. If I don’t like it, it will grow back. If I don’t like it, it will grow back.” Fortunately, she liked the shorter, sassier, more grown-up haircut—and so did the judges and the fans.

• For a while, basketball player Chris Mullen of the Golden State Warriors had a drinking problem. It took courage for him to admit that he had a problem and to do something about it, but Mr. Mullen did. In 1988, he missed some games to go into an alcohol rehabilitation program, and he worried about what the fans would do when he returned to playing. He shouldn’t have worried. The fans gave him a standing ovation when he returned, and he responded with 10 points, six assists, four rebounds, and four steals in 23 minutes to lead the Warriors to a 102-100 home victory over the Utah Jazz.

Crime

• Muhammad Ali signed autographs for a long time one day, and later he discovered that someone had picked his pocket—someone had taken $5,000 from his coat pocket. His manager lamented the loss, but Mr. Ali was philosophical about it, saying, “I don’t care about that money. The person who stole it probably needed it for their rent or to feed their children. That money will help someone, and that makes me feel good.”

• When Oscar De La Hoya was a young boxer with a growing reputation, he was mugged by five men carrying guns. They stole his wallet and his money. However, a few hours later, the wallet and money were returned to Mr. De La Hoya’s house. The toughs had seen his ID, learned whose wallet they had stolen, and out of respect for him had returned his wallet and money.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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